On February 15, PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) had the unique opportunity of introducing our program to and playing with United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power! Our participants from the Leadership Development Program (LDP) showed Ambassador Power – along with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, USAID West Bank/Gaza Mission Director Dave Harden and Deputy Principal Officer Dorothea Shea of the U.S. Consulate Jerusalem, and Maher Bitar, the National Security Council’s Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs – that we are all about coexistence and know a thing or two about basketball as well.
Before getting on the court, two participants, Jinan and Liraz, shared their gratitude and experiences with PeacePlayers. “I think PeacePlayers changed my life, my thoughts, my perspectives, and it’s like a second family for me,” says Liraz before thanking USAID and the U.S. Department of State (Also thanks to USAID, Jinan and Liraz were just the starts of a short video highlighting the work of PeacePlayers and their own friendship. The video can be seen here.).
Once on the court, our participants showed everyone that their relationships transcend the conflict. Palestinian and Israeli youth were put on mixed teams together with Ambassador Power, Ambassador Shapiro, Mission Director Harden and Maher Bitar of the Security Council. Competition was tight, including some tough ball grabs between Ambassador Power and Ambassador Shapiro.
Despite the on-going violence and tensions, our participants from East and West Jerusalem are united on and off the court. PPI – ME has been giving opportunities to Palestinians and Israelis for the past ten years to meet, change perceptions, and build confidence and leadership skills all through the game of basketball. It was an absolute privilege showing Ambassador Power that PeacePlayers is living “proof that Arabs and Jews can get along together,” a quote from Liraz. Thank you Ambassador Power, Ambassador Shapiro, USAID, and the United Department of State for supporting PeacePlayers and for sharing our vision that “children who play together can learn to live together!”